Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Burkini and the Non-Religious Extremism | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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[Tim Wimborne/Reuters]

The case of Burkini has emerged in France after the decision to ban swimming suits worn by Muslim women in 30 municipalities in the country. This ban provoked a wide debate in France and in the worldwide media; it has also renewed arguments in Paris on secularism and religious freedom. The ban of burkini has been accompanied with frightening constraints imposed by policemen on Muslim women who visit beaches, where some were accused of bothering people.

Yet, France’s highest administrative court, the Council of State, ruled a ban on the 26th of August against the restrictions issued by the municipalities on burkinis. The court also considered that this ban is a dangerous violation of public freedoms including personal and religious liberties.

While many of French educated people have considered that the court’s decision has saved the reputation of the French secularism and the state of personal freedom in it, others have considered it a new privilege for Muslims and a threat for the country’s secularism. Apparently, the court’s decision has opposed the public view in France amid a large spread of Islamophobia reflected through media, culture, administration, and some security agencies.

According to a survey implemented by the right-winged newspaper “Le Figaro” concerning the French people’s view on the Burkini matter, 76% have saw that the may threat the public system.

On the sociological and historical level, the tendency of the French society to exclude religion, particularly foreign ones like Islam, can be seen as a normal reaction because France is the country that has first founded the secular movement and applied it among its colonies.

Secularism requires neutrality with other religions and thoughts; however, in the French case, secularism is turning into a mean to destroy other people’s freedoms to secure the perfect neutrality. Social interactions have given politics an important role and significance; therefore, the ban of veil through a judicial or legal decision, as happened in Paris, has transformed the protection of secularism into a movement that violates human rights and into a new religion that compete the other spread religions.

Philosopher Guy Haarscher sees that the social path in France and Europe changes on the ethnic and religious levels, which asserts that these societies need to differ with the classic secularism; the secular origin has maintained its roots in the French community, which leads it sometimes toward a radical view against religion and its symbols, like the


Harscher adds that democratic countries don’t have a legal text that imposes a strict separation between the religion and the regime, given that there are ministries that sponsor the religious issue. The philosopher also notes that the French Secularism is not the only sample adopted in Europe and points to the Belgium sample that depends on a special pattern that secures the diversity of religions.

From his part, in his book “Religion in Democracy”, Marcel Gauchet sees that the world is standing in front of a significant transformation in the society-state relations; he considers that secularism bet on limiting religion in the people’s personal entourage, yet it has failed, which has urged the redefinition of secularism.

But would the French court’s decision on 26 August allow the change of the French secularism path and to change the law of 1905 to respond to the urgent changes in the French society? And would the French secularism succeed in protecting freedoms and rights in the era of Islamophobia and the worldwide spread terrorism?